Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Seek Not To Be Cumbered

I remember someone once describing an object lesson to me that a leader had presented to her group of youth.  The leader took a collection of balls and threw them all at once at someone and told the person to catch the balls.  That naturally ended in only one or two of the balls being caught with others scattering across the floor.  Then the leader gathered the balls again and threw them this time individually at the person.  She was able to catch and hold all of them because they came one at a time instead of all at once.  The application, as I remember it being told to me, was that life can be overwhelming when trying to work on all of our weaknesses or personal items in need improvement at once.  We can easily get overwhelmed by the thought of how many areas we need to improve on in our lives or how many things we are not doing that we should be doing.  When we get all these items thrown at us at once, we may not even “catch” any of them because we say, “What’s the point—look at how many I am dropping so why try for any?”  King Benjamin seemed to be addressing this attitude when he counseled, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27).  The Lord reiterated this to the Prophet Joseph in connection with the translation of the Book of Mormon: “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:4).  Both of these scriptures, though, follow up the counsel with a charge to be diligent lest we get complacent.  King Benjamin said, “And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize,” and the Lord counseled, “Be diligent unto the end.”  So how do we be diligent in what we need to without being overwhelmed by the task of being a faithful disciple of the Savior?          

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

All This For the Salvation of Zion

As I read section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants recently I was particularly impressed by the very last verse: “And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion.”  The instruction to the Joseph Smith and Frederick G. Williams was to translate the scriptures and gain a knowledge of both things of the world and the things of God.  All this great effort was to be done with a very specific aim: “for the salvation of Zion.”  Perhaps we might apply this principle more broadly as we struggle to see the reasons to keep going each day despite difficulties.  Why should we continue trying to teach our children the gospel even when we feel we make no progress, why should we keep studying the scriptures when sleep calls more loudly each night, why should we continue attempting to do missionary work or family history work or attend the temple or simply keep trying to overcome our weaknesses when we feel unable to do so?  Why should we keep fighting to endure to the end?  Perhaps the Lord would answer us to all these questions: “All this is for the salvation of Zion.” 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thy Money Perish With Thee

In his recent book Led By Divine Design, Elder Rasband told a story about his former employer and mentor John Huntsman.  In the 1980s the company was not doing well, and it was decided that 40% of the business would be sold off.  A buyer was found and a price determined, and John Huntsman shook on it to finalize the deal.  Over the next six months as the deal was being finalized, the company suddenly started to perform very well and the portion that was being sold was worth five times the agreed upon selling price.  The lawyers told John that he didn’t have to hold up to the agreed upon price because they had only shook hands and did not sign any papers.  “But John was a man of his word. And his handshake was no casual commitment. He informed the buyers of his decision to honor the original agreement and shocked the chemical industry. He would lose millions in the deal, but to him a deal was a deal.  His handshake was his bond” (part 4).  This story is a powerful example of staying true to our word at all costs and the fact that integrity is of far more importance than earthly possessions.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Spiritual Experiences for the Wayward

Towards the end of the reign of the second Mosiah, a problem was brought before him by Alma.  The people of the church were complaining because “the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great.”  It must have been a poignant and heartfelt meeting between the two of them as “Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah.”  Both Alma and Mosiah surely felt great responsibility to help protect the members of the Church, but they also knew that it was their own sons who were part of the problem.  They perhaps wondered whether any action they took to protect the Church might further alienate them from their sons whose choices were opposed to the commandments of the Lord.  But they went forward with faith in trying to protect the Church they had stewardship over, even at the risk of offending their own children: “And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God.  And there was a strict command throughout all the churches that there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men.”  Because of this action, “there began to be much peace again in the land,” for which these leaders undoubtedly rejoiced.  But surely Alma and Mosiah still wept over the hard hearts of their sons who continued in their wicked ways and were “a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God.”  Their actions to help the Church may have even worsened the divide between them and their sons.  They were left to do the only thing they knew how to help their sons: they prayed.  The angel who visited them would tell Alma, “The Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth” (Mosiah 27:1-3, 6, 9, 27).  Mosiah was without question also praying fervently for his sons, and eventually the Lord responded with a miraculous call to repentance for Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah.    

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Light, Life, and Truth

Moroni gave us these powerful words of the Savior, “For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world” (Ether 4:12).  Other scriptures affirm that he is indeed the personification of these three things: light, truth, and life.  Alma declared to his son Shiblon, “Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness” (Alma 38:9).  To the Nephites the Savior said, “Behold, I am the light and the life of the world” (3 Nephi 11:11). To Thomas the mortal Messiah declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).  Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants describes Him as “the light of truth” and that he is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.”  He declared, “Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you” (v6, 13, 50).  In our dispensation He declared, “I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:58).  And to Hyrum Smith the Savior proclaimed, “I am the life and the light of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:28).  The scriptures repeatedly affirm that Christ is the source of and personification of light, life, and truth.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Delivered From Destruction

While they were on their journey to the promised land, Nephi recorded these words of the Lord: “After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 17:14).  This prophecy was indeed fulfilled for the group as a whole as they were saved from the destruction of Jerusalem and miraculously preserved in the desert and on the ocean.  I think we can also consider the prophecy from the perspective of Nephi himself.  Surely he was delivered from destruction on numerous occasions, and he did always know that it was the Lord who helped save him from death at the hands of his brothers on their journey. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mormon's Obedience

One of the attributes of Mormon that we see throughout the text of the Book of Mormon is his obedience to the Lord.  Ammaron, a prophet, described him as “quick to observe,” and surely that included being quick to observe the commandments of the Lord (Mormon 1:2).  Mormon summarized at one point in the battles between the Nephites and Lamanites: “I did even as the Lord had commanded me” (Mormon 3:16).  After receiving instruction from Ammaron regarding the records, Mormon emphasized, “I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me” and he told how he “did go to the hill Shim, and did take up all the records which Ammaron had hid up unto the Lord. (Mormon 1:5, Mormon 4:23).  Ammaron had commanded him, “Ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people” (Mormon 1:4).  The whole Book of Mormon is a testament of Mormon’s obedience to that command despite the tumultuous times around him.   

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Lesson from Nephihah

Mormon recorded a tragedy during the course of the great war between the Lamanites and Nephites in Alma 59.  After Moroni had received an epistle from Helaman about the battles on the west side, he sent word to the government to send more men to Helaman’s army to support them.  Moroni then began preparing to take more of the Lamanite cities.  He was taken by surprise when an enormous Lamanite army (some of them coming fleeing from Helaman in Manti as recorded in Alma 58:29) attacked the Nephite city of Nephihah.  Mormon recorded that Ammoron’s army “did begin to slay them with an exceedingly great slaughter,” and so it must have been a terrible disaster as men, women, and children were slain by the Lamanites (Alma 59:7).  This city had apparently been through a lot because it was captured by the Lamanites in the 25th year of the reign of the judges (Alma 51:26).  It was then retaken by the Lamanites here in the 30th year, and so at some point in between that the Nephites must have captured the city back.  Thus it is no wonder that Moroni was so upset to see Nephihah attacked by the Lamanites when they could have defended it if only the government had sent the men to do so.  Mormon described Moroni’s feelings this way: “And now as Moroni had supposed that there should be men sent to the city of Nephihah, to the assistance of the people to maintain that city, and knowing that it was easier to keep the city from falling into the hands of the Lamanites than to retake it from them, he supposed that they would easily maintain that city” (Alma 59:9).

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Luke: A Messenger of Jesus Christ

I would have thought that Paul was the most prolific writer in the New Testament.  But I read yesterday that it is actually Luke, the author of both the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.  According to one site, he is responsible for 37,932 Greek words, whereas Paul contributed 32,408.  As I consider the contribution of Luke, we really are deeply indebted to the record of the Savior and the ministry of the apostles that he left us.  Many of the stories and parables of the gospel of Luke are unique to his account, and his book of Acts tells us so much about the early Christian church after the resurrection of the Savior that we wouldn’t have otherwise.  What is perhaps surprising is that he was a Greek Gentile, a symbol perhaps for us that the gospel really did spread beyond the Jews and house of Israel to go to “all nations” as the Savior had commanded before ascending into heaven (Matt. 28:19). 

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Punishment of Zacharias

One of the topics we discussed in Gospel Doctrine yesterday was why Zacharias received such a harsh punishment from the angel Gabriel because of his question.  The angel declared to Zacharias in the temple, “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”  Zacharias wondered at this because “Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years,” and so he asked the angel, “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.”  His question seems to be saying, “How am I going to know this is true? What proof can you give me of this?”  Gabriel responded, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.”  It seems that in essence Gabriel was saying, “I am an angel in front of you sent from God—isn’t this proof enough for you to know that this will come to pass?!”  The angel said Zacharias received the punishment because he “believest not,” and so for a period of approximately nine months he could not speak because of his initial unbelief at the angel’s words.  Zacharias was not a wicked man—Luke said he and Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6-7,13,18-20).  It seems surprising that someone who was righteous could receive such a severe punishment for a little momentary lack of faith.